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Japan Plant Emits More Radiation After Cooling Lapse

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Global Security Newswire
April 15, 2011

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan emitted a new burst of radioactive material this week after a bungled cooling effort apparently affected spent atomic fuel in the site’s No. 4 reactor cooling pond, the Associated Press reported (see GSN, April 13).

Workers were firing water into the pond from a distance in an effort to prevent the fuel from overheating and releasing radioactive contaminants, but fluid collecting in an adjacent flood control container triggered an incorrect warning that the pond had been filled. Personnel halted water transfers to the pool for a number of days in response to the warning, allowing heat and radiation levels to increase even though the fuel was thought to have remained submerged, Japanese Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency Deputy Director General Hidehiko Nishiyama said. Water spraying began again on Wednesday.

The six-reactor plant was crippled by the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and devastating tsunami that hit Japan on March 11; the projected death toll of the events exceeds 26,000 people, though authorities have found the remains of only 11,250 individuals to date. A series of smaller tremors in recent days might have contributed to incorrect feedback from equipment at the facility, according to authorities.

An uptick in radiation at the cooling pond indicates the fuel in storage there had been compromised, authorities said. Concentrations of iodine 131, cesium 134 and cesium 137 have increased in the pond, said Junichi Matsumoto, an executive for plant operator Tokyo Electric Power.

Nishiyama, though, suggested “fuel rods in the pool are largely intact, or still keeping the normal shape of what they should look like.”

“If they were totally messed up, we would have been looking at different sets of numbers from the water sampling,” the official said (Yamaguchi/Yuasa, Associated Press/Time, April 14).

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This article was posted: Friday, April 15, 2011 at 4:31 am

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